‘THE FIRES OF VULCAN’
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The Fires of Pompeii…with the Doctor and Mel
What if there were two Doctors in Pompeii before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius at the same time?
Well it happened! The Tenth Doctor and Donna were there in 79 AD before Vesuvius erupted in ‘The Fires of Pompeii’. But the Seventh Doctor and Mel were also there in this story, ‘The Fires of Vulcan’.
This perked my interest as I wondered how Doctor Seven didn’t notice that his future self was in Pompeii already. I also wondered whether Doctor Ten had forgotten he’d been in Pompeii before.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. ‘The Fires of Vulcan’ is a four-part adventure by Steve Lyons, starring Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Bonnie Langford as his companion Melanie Bush (Mel for short).
This adventure takes place during Season 24 of ‘Doctor Who’. It is set between ‘Delta and the Bannerman’ and ‘Dragonfire’ where the Doctor and Mel are still travelling together in the TARDIS.
Not many ‘Doctor Who’ fans like Season 24 with its outlandish comedic excursions. I have a fondness for Season 24 despite the absurd stories. So it’s a nice surprise to come across this adventure by Steve Lyons set during that period where fans were plagued by the stories featured in that season.
But ‘The Fires of Vulcan’ isn’t like any Season 24 story. It has its moments of humour, but Steve Lyons delivers a gripping and sometimes serious, dramatic adventure about the Doctor and Mel in Pompeii. Especially with the eruption of Mt Vesuvius, you can’t get more dramatic than that, can you?
Unlike ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ on TV, this is a proper historical adventure set in Pompeii without the aliens (there are no Pyroviles in this). It’s also a story focusing more on the Doctor and Mel being stuck in Pompeii, rather than on the moral dilemma Doctor Ten faced with sacrificing 20,000 people.
The Doctor recollects seeing the TARDIS buried in Pompeii during his fifth incarnation. In his seventh persona, the Doctor realises the TARDIS is gone and that he and Mel can’t escape. Determined not to give up like the Doctor is, Mel tries to find a way to get the TARDIS back before Vesuvius erupts.
It was interesting to see the Doctor being moody and mysterious, especially as this story is set in Season 24. Previously, the Doctor was a comical, light-hearted figure. Now Mel sees the Doctor as mysterious and dark. She’s not sure what to make of him since he’s changed from his regeneration.
I enjoyed Sylvester McCoy’s performance as the Doctor in this adventure. I liked how Sylvester balances both the comedic and the dramatic aspects of his Doctor here. He clearly has a stronger relationship with Mel and is clearly overcoming some obstacles before the Volcano Day takes place.
Bonnie Langford as Mel is a far more interesting character in the audios compared to the TV series. Mel isn’t a screamer in this adventure, thankfully. She’s full of guts when she tries to find a way for her and the Doctor out of this crisis. She also stands up to people with likes of priestess Eumanchia.
This story guest stars Gemma Bissix (from ‘Eastenders’) as Aglae. Aglae is a slave girl who gets ordered to attend to Mel whilst she’s in Pompeii. I liked the scenes Aglae shares with Mel and how the two girls compare to each other as to what their backgrounds are and the times they come from.
The rest of the cast includes Nicky Goldie as Valeria Hedone who runs a bar in Pompeii; Andy Coleman as Popidus Celsinus who has a fancy for Mel; Steve Wickham as Murranus, a gambler who wants to kill the Doctor and Lisa Hollander as Eumanchia, a priestess who has a grudge against Mel.
Just to say, Vulcan is one of the Roman gods (not the planet as seen in ‘The Power of the Daleks’ and not Spock’s home planet as seen in ‘Star Trek’). Vulcan is the god of fire in Roman mythology. Coincidentally, there was a cult of Vulcan during ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ at the same time of this story.
When the eruption of Vesuvius takes place, the Doctor and Mel are obviously sad and feel helpless as they can’t save the people of Pompeii. It’s interesting how Doctor Seven mentions he had nothing to do with Vesuvius’ eruption, which contradicts the events of Doctor Ten’s adventure in Pompeii.
The CD extras are as follows. On Disc 2, there are trailers for ‘The Shadow of the Scourge’ with Sylvester McCoy; Sophie Aldred and Lisa Bowerman and ‘The Holy Terror’ with Colin Baker. There’s also a trailer for the first season of Eighth Doctor adventures with Paul McGann and India Fisher.
‘The Fires of Vulcan’ has been a gripping and enjoyable historical adventure with the Doctor and Mel. It was interesting to find that there was a Pompeii adventure in audio before the TV one. It was also interesting that there was a dramatic historical adventure set during Season 24 of ‘Doctor Who’.
‘The Fires of Vulcan’ rating – 9/10
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